Now, none of this is to suggest that someone from a rural state should not be the Republican nominee. Nor, for that matter, is it to imply that there is anything inherently wrong with a public figure’s acknowledging his roots. In fact, it would be rather refreshing to welcome into the fold a presidential candidate who did not resemble Clint Webb. But it is to note that there is an awkwardly thin line between the man who is genuinely proud of where he is from and who doesn’t care who knows it, and the hectoring tell-don’t-show scold who has elected to sneer at the rest of the country because he thinks it will help his electoral fortunes. Lately, alas, Huckabee has begun to position himself on the wrong side of that divide. “In Iowa,” he told a Des Moines radio station last Friday, “you would not have people who would just throw the f-bomb and use gratuitous profanity in a professional setting.” “In New York,” by contrast, “not only do the men do it, but the women do it!” That, he concluded” is just “trashy!”
This was no aberration. A few days earlier, Huckabee had taken to Bill O’Reilly’s show to describe Beyoncé as nothing more than a “sex object” and to imply that, by permitting her to dance as she sees fit, her husband is a pimp. In his book, meanwhile, he describes Beyoncé’s music as “trash,” proposes that her “explicit moves” are “best left for the privacy of her bedroom,” and inquires derisively as to why the Obamas “let Sasha and Malia listen” to her at all.
One has to ask why exactly politicians feel the need to comment on these questions. The United States has a raft of problems that need addressing, not the least of which is that its supposedly limited government is at present threatening to devour the very liberty that it was instituted to protect. That a man who would ascend to the most powerful office in the country is meditating on the alleged shortcomings of a performer strikes me as being both politically unseemly and electorally counterproductive. Here on the right, we often complain that the political, media, and entertainment classes regard most of the country as rather irrelevant, and that, in consequence, they openly condescend to people who live in Alabama or who go to church or who have NRA stickers on their cars. There is much to this gripe. And yet one will not solve that problem by presenting as a countervailing force a person who sneers right back — especially when that person is seeking an extraordinary amount of power over his fellow citizens. Whatever cultural renaissance Mike Huckabee might believe is necessary in the United States, it will be up to civil society and not to the political classes to bring it about. Unless conservatives wish to join the Left in its Wilsonian quest to glue politics to absolutely everything, our would-be emissaries really need to make up their minds: Do they want to be Mark Levin, or do they want to be Calvin Coolidge?